Getting a chance to check out and review this watch for a while was really a dream come true. I recall when I wrote about it a while ago here when it was first announced. I knew then that I really wanted to wear one. The full limited edition of the Louis Moinet Jules Verne Instrument watches is finally out, and Louis Moinet even has created the artistic steampunk Vernoscope set that comes with four special pieces. My opinion is that Jules Verne style watches are going to be a big part of Louis Moinet’s future, and it all starts here.
So what is the Jules Vernes Instrument watch? A vintage sci-fi relic? A luxury steampunk creation? Or just a cool watch influenced by the father of sci-fi? All of the above really. I want to say early that there are two versions of the watch from a complication standpoint. These are the Jules Verne Instrument # 1 and the Jules Verne Instrument # 2. If you don’t know what you are looking for in the watch, it can honestly be a bit of a pain to tell the difference between the two. Each of them have modified Valjoux 7750 automatic movements with a special module on them. The Instrument # 1 has a module that has a GMT hand at the subdial at 9 o’clock, while the Instrument # 2 has a rattrapante (split second chronograph) built onto the 12 hour chronograph that is already part of the Valjoux 7750. Both versions have upgraded date functions. What is the upgrade? Well, basically, you can adjust the date either forward or backwards. Plus, operating the small date hand on the dial located at 3 o’clock is buttery smooth. Really, it is a joy to adjust the date. I never thought I would say that with that particular function, but it is true. The company that makes the special modules does so for a few brands, but movements like this are hard to find.
Louis Moinet chose the Valjoux 7750 movement for its durability, reliability, and to be honest , value. While the Louis Moinet Jules Verne Instrument watches aren’t cheap, they could have been much more expensive. What I love about the choice of using a work-horse movement with a module, is that you get the best of a few worlds. The functions added by the modules in the movements are well integrated, perform nicely, and feel durable. These are important factors to me. As you can see, this is the Instrument # 2, which means that it has a split second chronograph. Here is how it works. You start the chronograph as normal. At any point, you press the pusher located at 10 o’clock and a little hand underneath the chronograph seconds hand stops. You can then start or stop it whenever you like and be able to measure a separate 60 seconds total, while the standard 12 hour chronograph is still running. It basically gives you the ability to time a shorter measurement without having to stop the main chronograph. It is pretty useful in certain situations. Likewise, with the Instrument # 1, having an adjustable GMT hour hand is useful for having a second timezone, or as an AM/PM indicator. Going back to the movement for a moment, you can see it through the sapphire caseback window on the back of the watch. It uses some blued screws, perlage polish, and a specially engraved rotor for decoration. Overall, with a movement such as this at this price level, I am satisfied.
The functions of the watch are laid out nicely, and I like the design of the applied gold ring or semi rings in the dial. The dial itself comes in silver or black, and I hear is a pain in the ass to engrave. Louis Moinet had to located the right supplier that could do the signature “Louis Moinet sunburst” design on the dial (and automatic rotor). It looks really good, and I am glad that Louis Moinet went to the effort of finding someone who could do it. The hands are all really thin and mean to look like Jules Verne era industrial gauges. The thin arrow hour and minute hands appear clear as day in some lighting situations, and blend in with the face in other situations. This is a quirk with the dial that makes it less that legible in certain lighting situations, but it still always look so good. From an artistic standpoint the dial is beautiful. Though like the issue with the hands, there are some other readability problems. The dial has no lume, and the small gold dots on the minute scale look like that are supposed to be hour indicators, but actually aren’t. They are placed between the hours. The minute indicators double as hour indicators. This can be a bit confusing to the eye sometimes. What really does help legibility is the properly sized hands in terms of length, and the dial is still very useful given all that is going on. Even with these quirks, the dial provides so much visual pleasure (not to mention compliments) that it is hard to resist wearing it often.
I am really in love with the watch case. It is big at about 46.5mm wide with a case that has several different materials in it. Most of the case is brushed grade 5 titanium. Then it has 18k rose gold, as well as some polished steel. One of the first things you notice about the case is the fold out chronograph pushers. There really isn’t much to say about them, they fold out, work just as described, and fold back in securely. I love the intricately designed large crown. It has steel and gold in it, and an engraved fleur de lys Louis Moinet logo in it. The bezel is also very nicely done in steel with that 18k rose gold ring and trim. Finish on the case is very nice, and it overall is a great look that fits well thanks to its gentle curvature.
You can further appreciate the lugless approach that the design takes. The alligator strap is connected underneath, making for a seamless look. Opposite the crown is a curious element of the design. There is a little porthole made with more detail that you might expect. Underneath that sapphire crystal window is a flat cut piece of gray stone. I admit that this element of the watch could have been designed a bit better (so that the rock in there looks more like a piece of rock rather than part of the case), but you can’t deny that what it is makes you want one of these watches. The stone in there is a piece of the moon. Real moon rock, and not even harvested from the moon. We actually have more moon rock that we got from the moon than this type of stone. This is a piece of the moon that fell from the moon to the earth. How did it do that you ask? Well, it wasn’t easy. Basically, what had to happen at some point was a meteorite needed to slam into the moon, hitting it so hard that a piece breaks off and goes into space. That moon rock projectile needs to fly toward the earth, and hit the earth after surviving the fall into the atmosphere the breaks up most meteorites. After all that, this rocks needs to survive the elements and be found by someone. Of course, it goes without saying that such a stone isn’t cheap, and not exactly easy to come by. Ultra rare, and you can have a little piece of one right on your wrist in this watch. It is all very fitting as the watch is a direct homage to Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon.” Gimmicky? A bit. But darn it the gimmick works on me like honey to a bear. I love the idea, and it makes me feel awesome to show it off to people. Needless to say it usually result in an impressed person asking “who makes that? It is really cool.”
All the titanium in the watch makes it lighter than it would be if it was all steel or gold. So it isn’t that heavy, and it is pretty comfy to wear. The alligator strap is done in an interesting way. It is actually coated with vulcanized rubber. That way it is more durable, but has the signature reptile look to it. Also, it has a neat technical flavor that goes with the watch itself. It is connected below with a largish folding butterfly clasp. The deployment clasp has a good looking design, and secures perfectly, but seems to look a bit like it is going to open up. It doesn’t at all, but something about the design could be refined a bit to give it a more compact look. Just another quirk the watch has, but honestly these quirks help give it character, and I don’t think they will bar people otherwise interesting in the pieces from getting one.
It feels as though I should provide some literary summation points for this watch. Especially given how much of a cool fantasy piece it is. Jules Verne was called crazy in his day, and then years later it turns out he was mostly correct in his methods about how we actually did most of the things he dreamed up. Sure, there aren’t “Mysterious Islands” with giant crabs living on them, but we did travel to the moon in a rocket similar to what he imagined, and we did travel to the depth of the oceans in a submersible vessel similar to his drawings. So what does that say about the watch? Perhaps it is a testament to big dreamers. One who imagines how things might be, and predicts how we might accomplish them. The steampunk look of the watch signals the beginning of modern science and engineering as we know it. In that sense it is almost a historical throw-back. However you see the watch, it is a looker and a real emotionally charged work of art. I love the thing.
Each of the Louis Moinet Jules Verne Instrument watches is available with either a black or silver dial and limited to 60 pieces. That means there are 240 of the limited edition watches available. I also hear that there are a few blue and Havana (tobacco brown) dials available in even more limited editions. Prices for the watch at about $18,900 each – and pretty darn worth it if you have the means and the dreams.